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This course will examine the lives and careers of the five women to have served on the United States Supreme Court: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Amy Coney Barrett. Topics will include the family, educational, and legal backgrounds of the justices; the social forces and politics that drove their nominations; and their ideologies and influences on the law as associate justices of the Supreme Court. The course will also examine social changes in the United States and the legal profession that culminated in the appointment of women to the Court and consider whether the advent of women justices has influenced the dynamics and public perception of the Court.
INSTRUCTOR: John S. Ross, III (Jack) holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law and served as Adjunct Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Jack has taught numerous courses in the WISE program on constitutional law and the Supreme Court, and facilitates the WISE Supreme Court SIG.
No Required Books; Optional readings:
Sandra Day O’Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Amy Coney Barrett
I was unable to find a biography of Justice Barrett. However, some insights into her background and judicial philosophy and the impact of her appointment (replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg) on the Court may be found in Linda Greenhouse’s new book: Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months that Transformed the Supreme Court (Random House 2021). Ms. Greenhouse formerly served as the Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times and now teaches at Yale Law School.
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In addition, there is a chapter discussing Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan in David G. Dalin’s book Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court: From Brandeis to Kagan, Their Lives and Legacies (Brandeis University Press 2017). Some of you might have heard Rabbi Dalin, a respected historian, speak at the Jewish Community Center when his book was published.
Worcester Institute for Senior Education (WISE)Assumption University, 500 Salisbury Street, Worcester MA 01609